It’s a familiar story: a hugely talented performer — actor, comedian, musician- rockets to fame and discovers that their on-stage life is the only time they feel totally happy, totally free. The challenge then is to numb the sadness and emptiness they feel off-stage, or off the set. Along with drugs of various sorts, alcohol becomes an indispensable solution.
In the movie world of yore, there were stars who made drinking part of their persona, and others who hid it under youth, good looks and charm- all of which, of course, faded that much quicker as a result of their tippling.
Dean Martin in particular had his routine down: he got laughs out of being a drunk, but in actuality, was fairly moderate next to some of his “Rat Pack” buddies. The dull truth about Dino was that he much preferred to go up to his hotel room and sit down in front of a Western on TV.
Other legendary characters were authentic and dedicated boozers, providing cautionary tales about the price of fame. Of course, since alcoholism is genetic, most would have been afflicted even if they’d missed the big time, but all the bright lights and relentless pressure of being a public figure surely fanned the flames.
Here are some prominent examples of movie stars who drank, and some telling quotes on how they felt about their condition — and that other condition called life.
John Barrymore: “You can’t drown yourself in drink. I’ve tried; you float.”
Errol Flynn: “I like my whiskey old and my women young.”
W.C Fields: “What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?”
Tallulah Bankhead: “My father warned me about men and booze, but he never mentioned a word about women and cocaine.”
Humphrey Bogart: “The trouble with the world is that it's always one drink behind.”
Judy Garland: “I have often wished for just a few words of love from one man, rather than the applause of thousands of people.”
William Holden: “Danger has always been an important thing in my life - to see how far I could lean without falling, how fast I could go without cracking up.”
Richard Burton: “I have to think hard to name an interesting man who does not drink.”
Frank Sinatra: “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy.
Peter O’Toole: “Booze is the most outrageous of drugs, which is why I chose it.”
Elizabeth Taylor: “I had a hollow leg. I could drink everyone under the table and not get drunk. My capacity was terrifying.”
Oliver Reed: “You meet a better class of people in pubs.”
Photo by Nijs, Jac. de / Anefo
Nick Nolte: “The thing about addiction is that you don't feel things. It's about cutting the pain off, whether it's physical or psychological.”
Melanie Griffith: “I like smoking! I mean, God, I quit everything else, can't I smoke?”
Photo by Manfred Werner
Robin Williams: “I went to rehab in wine country just to keep my options open.”
Photo by John Mathew Smith
Mel Gibson: “I did a lot of crazy things so I'm surprised to be alive.”
Photo by Georges Biard